On Thursday, January 5th, 2017, China’s National Energy Administration announced its plan to invest $360 billion into renewable energy by 2020. Beijing recently suffered a spell of smog in mid-December so intense Chinese officials were forced to issue a red alert warning, the most severe of its kind. The pollution originates from the vast coal-burning plants to the south and east of Beijing, although similar factories can be found across China. China accounts for twenty eight percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil combustion and industrial processes.
The turn to solar and wind-powered energy is expected to suppress the rise in fossil fuel emissions. Research analyst Lauri Myllyvirta from Greenpeace anticipates China will reach its goal of solar power installation outlined in China’s thirteenth Five-year plan by 2020 or even earlier. In 2015 alone, China installed more than one wind turbine each hour of every day totalling to 10,000 large wind turbines. The National Energy Administration predicts that China’s plan will create 13 million jobs by 2020. China’s choice to invest in infrastructure at home means less investment abroad, meaning President-elect Donald Trump will lose some of the foreign investment that would have created jobs for American citizens.
At the same time, some worry that China’s building plans are unaligned with its energy usage. From January to September 2016, China lost 19 percent of its generated wind power to overcapacity, called curtailment. When given the choice, electric grid operators incline towards coal-generated electricity. The coal industry holds a powerful political voice; the building of coal plants slowed down only recently. Most agree that China is only at the beginning of what will be a great change in habit. For now, the $360 billion initiative sets an example for the rest of the world.